Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)
If you grew up in a church, no doubt you have learned about this parable from a young age. It is used to teach children that they should be kind, considerate, and helpful to all who cross their path. As you grew spiritually and continued to dig deeper into the parable, you may have discovered that there is also a warning in the parable against judging others, and against forming stereotypes. As with many of the parables given by Jesus, there are many layers to the parable, encouraging continued discussion and study of His words.
Through the parable, Jesus is also commenting that a person’s profession does not always reflect the condition of their heart. The priest was a spiritual leader. He would have known the Torah and how he was to behave towards others. Levites led religious worship and helped maintain the temple grounds, and would have also had extensive knowledge of religious law. Yet both men passed on helping a man in need. Instead, it was a Samaritan, a half-Jew, half-Gentile descendant of the Israelites who intermarried with Assyrians. Samaritans and the Jewish Israelites did not interact with each other, as the Samaritans had their own temple and religious system. A Jewish leader would never expect a Samaritan to stop and offer aid.
Have you heard the phrases “in the spirit of the law” and “to the letter of the law”? The “expert in the law,” referenced in this parable, was attempting to do the latter, follow the letter of the law, that is following the law exactly as it was written, without taking into consideration the moral and spiritual point the law was trying to make. He was trying to take the word “neighbor” literally. He did not want to have to extend love and kindness to all he met, which was the spirit of the law.
Jesus corrects the expert in the law. Our neighbor is everyone! The stranger in a store. Your best friend. Your worst enemy. The person who lives next door to you. Your boss and coworkers. The person who lives across the street. All are your neighbors! All are to be treated with love, the same love the Lord has shown to you!
Do you turn away or sneer when you pass a homeless person, or someone asking for help? Do you volunteer your time to help others? How do you serve your neighbor? How do you show your love?
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